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Stephen Fry Thinks Anti-SeaWorld Bill Is 'Good News' for Orcas

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British actor, writer, and activist Stephen Fry thinks that the new legislation proposed by California assemblyman Richard Bloom that would prohibit SeaWorld from using orcas in its San Diego shows is “good news” for orcas.

In addition to prohibiting exploiting orcas for entertainment purposes, the bill would also ban captive breeding, and the import and export of so-called “killer” whales.

In order for the bill to pass, Fry asks his fans, and the general public for support. Please sign the petition here.

Bloom said that after watching “Blackfish,” he was motivated to end the captivity of orcas for entertainment purposes. The film documents the history of orcas at SeaWorld, and the death of trainer Dawn Brancheau caused by Tillicum, an orca captured in the wild, and subjected to abuse and confinement in small tanks for more than thirty years. “There is no justification for the continued captive display of orcas for entertainment purposes,” Bloom said in prepared remarks for an event unveiling the bill on Friday. “These beautiful creatures are much too large and far too intelligent to be confined in small, concrete tanks for their entire lives.”

Bloom unveiled details of Assembly Bill 2140, at a Santa Monica event attended by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the director of “Blackfish,” Naomi Rose, a marine mammal scientist with the Animal Welfare Institute, and two former SeaWorld trainers. The reach of the legislation will include all parks in California, but it will not change SeaWorld’s parks in other parts of the country. The San Diego park is owned by Orlando-based SeaWorld and Parks Entertainment, which operates a number of attractions across the country.

The bill would allow retired orcas to be on display in settings similar to aquariums, but not be used for entertainment purposes, defined as “any routinely scheduled public exhibition that is characterized by music or other sound effects, choreographed display or training for that display, or unprotected contact between humans and orcas.”

SeaWorld has been aggressively fighting back, issuing statements blasting the film “Blackfish” as propaganda. SeaWorld issued a response Friday morning that said, in part: “In addition to being one of the most respected members of the business community, SeaWorld also is a global leader in the zoological and animal welfare world. We are deeply committed to the health and well-being of all of our animals and killer whales are no exception.”

Gabriela Cowperthwaite, the film’s director, insists she was not out to sabotage SeaWorld’s shows. “I thought I was going to make a film about trainers and their relationships with the animals,” she told students at Point Loma High School last month. “I peeled back the onion, and I was shocked.”

“This is about greed and this is about corporate exploitation, both of the whales and the trainers, but most importantly the whales,” said John Hargrove, a former SeaWorld orca trainer who resigned in August 2012.

The proposed legislation “has the potential to end the deep injustice of exhibitions of captive marine life,” said People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) spokesman, David W. Perle, in a statement. “PETA and kind people around the world have called on SeaWorld to retire these deprived orcas to a seaside sanctuary, but the park continues to defend its overt cruelty,” he added.

No hearing date for the bill has been set, but in the meantime, a ruling could be issued any day in response to SeaWorld Entertainment’s appeal of the United State’s Labor Department’s earlier citations for safety violations in connection with the drowning of Brancheau in Florida. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined SeaWorld and issued three safety violations, the most serious of which accused the park of exposing its employees to the possibility of being struck or drowned by killer whales. A judge later ruled that animal trainers be physically separated from the killer whales during performances.

“In their natural habitat, orcas are family-oriented, highly adaptable, socially complex with cultural traditions and the most intelligent creatures on this planet,” Bloom said in this prepared remarks. “If we truly want to help orca conservation, we should focus our efforts on restoring habitat in the wild and protecting our oceans,” he added.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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  • ericmills

    Thank you, Mr. Fry! Millions share your sentiments. Nor should we forget that the same problems exist at SeaWorld in Florida (home of Tilikum) and Texas. This is not a new issue. We were picketing these same abuses at Vallejo’s Marine World back in the early 1990’s. NO cetacean belongs in captivity–they do not thrive, nor do we have the right: a true “Crime Against Nature.” The issue is NOT potential lost jobs and tourist revenues; the issue is animal welfare, ethics and morality.

    Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s long-overdue legislation, AB 2140, will likely soon be assigned to the ASSEMBLY WATER, PARKS & WILDLIFE COMMITTEE for an April hearing. Committee chair is Assemblymember Anthony Rendon. Committee consultant is Diane Colborn (email – diane.colborn@asm.ca.gov)

    Other members are Frank Bigelow, Travis Allen, Raul Bocanegra, Brian Dahle, Paul Fong, Jim Frazier, Beth Gaines, Mike Gatto, Jimmy Gomez, Lorena Gonzalez, Adam Gray, Jim Patterson, Freddie Rodriguez and Mariko Yamada (10 Democrats, five Republicans).


    Eric Mills, coordinator

  • Teresa Wagner

    Thank you Stephen Fry!

    The most powerful thing that can be done at this point to help get this bill passed is for CALIFORNIANS to contact their Assemblymember and say:
    “I support AB2140 wholeheartedly. I hope you will encourage the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee to vote yes on this bill at the April hearing. And I hope you will vote yes on this bill when it reaches the Assembly floor. Thank you! Please let me know your position on the bill.”

    To find your Assemblymember: http://findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov/

    If you love whales and live in CA, please take 10 minutes to do this!
    If you love whales and don’t live in CA, please ask those you know if CA to do it!

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